US President Donald Trump’s concerted efforts to weed out Chinese apps from American ecosystem have just hid a roadblock. Trump’s executive order barring WeChat, that was scheduled to come into effect starting Sunday, has been put on hold by a US federal judge.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler in San Francisco is the one to issue a hold on the order, saying that WeChat users who filed a lawsuit “have shown serious questions going to the merits of the First Amendment claim, the balance of hardships tips in the plaintiffs’ favor.”
President Trump had previously raised questions over Chinese apps, more specifically on WeChat and Tikok, on grounds of national security. He had then alleged that both these mentioned Chinese apps, along with others, have been harvesting American user data to aid the Chinese government. The alleged claim, which till date remains technically unproven, was then used by the US Commerce department recently, to bring Trump’s erstwhile executive order into effect.
The ban imposed against the social messaging app WeChat would have rendered the company’s transaction within the United States invalid post-Sunday. But the injunction issued by federal judge Laurel Beeler is going put a temporary hold on the imposition of the ban against the software’s owners Tencent Holdings.
In her 22 page judgement, Judge Beeler of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, wrote that the plaintiffs are a group of United States-based WeChat users who would be greatly affected by the imposition of the ban because as current situations stand, the ban would put a stop to an effective means of communication for the huge Chinese population residing in the USA. The app acts as an efficient mode of communication to the members of the Chinese community that have limited English proficiency. Hence, a ban would greatly threaten the affected individual’s First Amendment rights.
Judge Beeler also pointed out that the government has put out scant evidence which does not definitively suggest that banning the app would resolve America’s security concern. However, the points raised by the plaintiffs with respect to jeopardy against their First Amendment rights, on the other hand, is a very real factor. She added that the prohibitions “burden substantially more speech than is necessary to serve the government’s significant interest in national security, especially given the lack of substitute channels for communication.”
This decision has been met with significant applause, with Thomas Burke, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs expressed their gratitude in regards to Judge Beeler’s verdict.
This particular injunction comes on the back off an announcement made by President Trump with regards to TikTok Global making a reskinned comeback for its American audience after an executive overhaul. President Trump had earlier signed off on a deal involving retail giant Wallmart, Oracle, and an American majority TikTok board, as reported by The Tech Portal earlier this week.
The recent injunction issued by Judge Beeler would very well put the ban against WeChat on a temporary hold, but taking President Trump’s history with facing rejections into account, the world can very well expect another Twitter storm sometime soon.